ST. FRANCIS, Wis. — A quick glance at the schedule shows Saturday night’s game between NBA Central Division rivals Milwaukee and Chicago will be played at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Monday’s game between the two teams is scheduled for the United Center in Chicago.
So why are the Bucks are preparing for two road games in three days against the Bulls?
Well, the short drive up I-94 and the success Chicago has had against the Bucks has led to many Bulls fans making the trip north. Bucks forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute said he only time he’s been booed in his own arena was during a game against the Bulls.
“It’s one of those weird things that kind of occurs on occasion,” Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. “It’s our home game, but there’s as many Bulls fans in the building as our own.”
Skiles believes the initial reaction to hearing cheers for an opponent’s basket had a negative effect on some of Milwaukee’s young players in years past. Now that they know what to expect and how to deal with it, he says it won’t be a factor this time around.
And though the season isn’t even a month old, Chicago clearly isn’t as dominant as it has been. Most of that has to do with star point guard Derrick Rose still recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered in the playoffs last season. With the Bucks – not Chicago — in first place, Milwaukee forward Larry Sanders thinks, or maybe hopes, more home fans will turn out.
“I think it will be a little different show,” Sanders said. “Last home game it was pretty packed in the BC. I encourage our fans to come out again. We are going to need that. Keep those Bulls fans out of those seats.”
As for the actual game, the old argument about whether a rivalry still exists when one team is doing all the winning can be brought up here. The Bulls have won eight straight against the Bucks. Milwaukee’s last home win against Chicago came Jan. 8, 2010.
“I don’t even know if it is a rivalry when you get dominated like that,” Skiles said. “The last couple years, they’ve been better than us. We’ve been close, we’ve had our opportunities, we just haven’t been able to get them.”
It’s well documented that the Bucks got bigger in the offseason so they could better match up against bigger teams. Chicago certainly was at the top of the list as one of those teams. Forward Joakim Noah, in particular, has given the Bucks fits with his energy and relentless effort on the glass.
“I think that was our main problem playing against them,” Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings said. “They’d get an o-board, and we were just undersized. I feel more confident now that we have our big guys back there.”
The Bucks would like to believe the roles have reversed. Without Rose, Chicago was knocked out in the first round of last year’s playoffs by eighth-seeded Philadelphia. The Bulls’ struggles have carried over into this season, and they have lost three straight games.
With two games in three days against the Bulls, the Bucks sense there is no better time to build separation in the standings, knowing that Chicago eventually hit its stride.
“The Bulls are still a great defensive team even without D-Rose,” Jennings said. “This is a great time for us to take advantage. These are two big games for us right now. Just for the fact that we’ve lost two games in a row. We need to get a win.”
Crossing the line: Sanders knows there is a fine line when it comes to his emotions, and he knows he crossed it Wednesday in Miami.
He was ejected on his birthday, receiving a technical foul for slamming the ball hard off the rim after he was called for a personal foul. The second technical and ejection came when he kept grousing at the official.
“Emotions flared a little bit,” Sanders said. “That was an emotional game that we really wanted to win.”
The young forward is an emotional player; it’s just the way he is. His passion for winning sometimes leads him to do damage he doesn’t intend to do, and it’s all part of the learning process.
“Try to work through the calls, they are unchangeable,” Sanders said. “You just want to kind of stand up for yourself a little bit and hope that the next call won’t be so bad. You have no control over that. That’s something you have to learn as you play.
“You have to know what fights to pick, which battles you can win and lose. There are better ways to go about it. You just have to find those ways to go about it, keep me on the floor and play through those situations.”
A step in the right direction: Mbah a Moute took part in the noncontact portion of practice Friday as he continued to work his way back from offseason knee surgery.
After practice, Mbah a Moute did take part in a two-on-two game with teammates Doron Lamb, Marquis Daniels and Tobias Harris.
Afterward, Mbah a Moute said it went well, but he wants to have a couple of full-contact practices before he gives it a go in the game. With Milwaukee playing five games in the next week, practice time will be hard to come by.
“I’d like to see him get in a five-on-five scrimmage before he’s active,” Skiles said. “If I have to put someone on the inactive list that’s healthy because I want to active him, I have to see him play some.
“Even if he can get 10-12 minutes of some live play, we should be able to get that.”